NSW Coroner Michael Barnes
by Mary W Maxwell, PhD, LLB
I’m not sure what I expected the Lindt Inquest to be like, but I learned a lot by attending it. I was flabbergasted that the siege negotiator said he had been unaware of the messages from hostages. He also said, without sounding embarrassed, that he did not know where all the café’s exits were located.
I shall limit this article to “raw reportage,” saving analysis for a subsequent article. It quotes testimony from 3.30pm to 4.30pm on June 2, 2016, at the NSW Coroner’s Court. I have not abridged it.
What I have labeled “Part One” contains questions put to a member of the Police negotiating team, by a female lawyer who I think represents the families of decedents. (A coronial inquest is always about a death.) In Part Two, the same witness is questioned by a male lawyer who I assume represents him, or the Police in general.
Note: “The Stronghold” refers to the Lindt Café. Reference to “the lights” has to do with Monis’s demand that he did not want the lights from outside glaring into the Café.
When I say “DB” in the text, it means there are missing words that I hope to provide on a delayed basis. Where I couldn’t read the handwriting of my notes I entered DB rather than risk misquoting.
FEMALE LAWYER TO NEGOTIATOR
Q. You thought Monis was not reacting, he was calm across deadlines, and that further escapes would not necessarily react by him? Marcia Mikael had escaped at 4pm. You were told about it. “If anyone else tries to escape, one of us will die.” The level of fear of the hostages. [You] understood the tension – it indicates the potential. Understand the need to try to resolve it as soon as possible.
A. I agree with you but whether it took 6 hrs, or 24 hrs, or 2 days – it didn’t give me the thought “We have to do this as soon as possible.” The longest one I’ve been involved in went for 5 days. It doesn’t push depending on the situation and the dynamic.
Q. So you get information about what the dynamics are and what might trigger a change. It calls for [intervention?]
A. I do agree with what you say. But I must go to the Commander and say I don’t think it’s going to be an option.
Q. Tim, Peter, Matt, Reg, and Dr Bentley [a psychiatrist] are on the Negotiating team [Note: not real names]. You’re in the belief until 2am that it was calm in the Stronghold. If you find it wasn’t, you’d have taken action to beef up….
A. I don’t know about “beef up.” It might require a variation in strategy. At 1.00am there was nothing to indicate that things were escalating. DB.
Q. You didn’t receive any information that it was escalating?
A. I agree with you that there was nothing to indicate that things were escalating. Reg had said: Monis had been calm [during the] escapes and none of hostages were distressed.
Q. From 8pm, calls were made into the Stronghold?
A. Yes but they didn’t answer.
Q. 4.30pm was the last escape. If you had an understanding that frustration was building. Use of an [electronic?] or an alternate method
A. Yes I said the Elec is a method. We can talk about hypotheticals – but the information that was coming to me from the calls and the LD (listening device).
Q. You might try an alternative tactic.
A. It’s possible, yes.
Q. Page 8 [?] access to report by Kim Ora [spelling?] at paragraph 15 you had access to the criminal history of Monis before. That he was an accessory before and after the stabbing and setting alight of his ex-wife? And many sexual assaults. You would have learned about his letter-writing campaign to the families of deceased soldiers.
A. It says narcissistic personality type in the Kim Ora report.
Q. Dr Bentley was present at 11.50pm. Was there any discussion as to how such a man as Monis might be engaged? What significance [?]
A. Appeal to his sense of grandiosity, point to his achievements.
—-INTERRUPTION by the Coroner’s Court counsel (or possibly a lawyer for the Police): “The witness is about to give a strategy. His Honor has upheld confidentiality ….”
Q. I withdraw the question. Did you get approval to implement when he was asking to have the lights turned off on Martin Place?
A. Lights – get a message with him to work with the NC?
Q. At 11.50pm the briefing – does that accord with your memory?
A. Not sure, but I thought it was after 12.
Q. At 11.44pm Peter – he placed a call to the Lindt landline;
at 12.06am Peter sent a text to Monis to give him that number;
at 12.30 call to Maia? DB. At 12.35 Selina Win Pe calls 000. At 12.47 she calls again, did you know?
A. I was unaware of any calls.
Q. Selina calls 000 again. Were you….
A. 12.53 Selina did get through to Matt on the negotiator [line].
Q. Your calling ends [?] and 12.50. On page 7009 it says [“Talk with Reg”] suggest the brief to Ora. DB.
You know two calls came from Selina to 000 and you DB too long? Can I suggest that an hour is inappropriate for the negotiating team?
A. No. I can’t give you an answer why these calls went unanswered. In the room adjacent to the DB.
Q. You know that the calls Selina made were very significant re this incident [?] at Lind. It’s been since 9.30pm the man has been asking that the lights be turned off. If this is not done soon he will [?] DB. The lights were a hook with which you could engage Monis. At 12.35 it would have been relevant?
A. I agree.
Q. At 12.48 Selina’s calls can’t get onto NC at 12.47. Do you have the number? I’ve got one number that’s now answering. We ask for this. Selina: “He’s going to shoot us.” [Does that] give you the impression that it’s not calm in the Stronghold? At 12.35am “We made this request 2 or 3 hours ago.” In Selina’s stress – her stress at not getting thru.
Q. You we not told by the Primary Negotiator about emails?
A. Yes, I was not told.
Q. Your evidence is that the Stronghold was calm. Matt’s evidence 12.53pm is that Selina was highly agitated. Re lights, one of the reasons for the delay is that Selina’s call to 000 didn’t DB Did you hear that?
Q. Going to the text message, do you see he was getting [Matt or Reg] reasonably calm? He had a gun and possibly a bomb. You try to … DB. You know it’s dangerous. Every step that goes by with no victory is DB. You knew when the lights demands were made. You knew more politically significant [demands] had not been met – the flag and to talk to the Prime Minister — and yet no harm could come. At 1.28am you DB? What’s happening if lights demand is not met?
A. Reaction of hostage takers. That’s why Dr Bentley is there. Psychiatry has input on the behavioral issues.
Q. [Would it not] be a symbolic victory to let him have the lights? Could be he is to [settle]?
A. I didn’t believe that it could be settled. Allowed our strategies to affect our DB.
Q. The lights are “important and positive”? Monis wants to let a hostage out as a step toward the resolution.
A. Yes. What use could be made, to appeal to Monis’ personality.
THE MALE LAWYER BEGINS HERE (REPRESENTING NEGOTIATOR OR POLICE?)
Q. You took internal NSW police training and a graduate diploma in Negotiating, right?
A. Yes. It was a distance degree at Charles Sturt University. Assessment was by assignments and one exam. Subjects were:
Practical Field Facts [?]
Electronic [DB] – and an elective.
Q. What did you do your elective in?
A. I did terrorism.
Q. What about psychology?
A. Also a course in psychology.
Q. Was it useful?
Q. What made you choose Negotiating at Sturt, a 2-year diploma? You were made an Inspector in 2015. Did the course contribute?
A. It was certainly in-depth and required thought into the readings. To have an expanded training was beneficial.
Q. Did it assist you in formulating strategies?
A. Yes, it certainly did.
Q. On Practical Mentoring, have you participated in Counter-Terrorism exercises?
A. Yes, in 2001 with a large number of hostages.
Q. Had you enacted scenarios?
A. Yes with a variety of hostages.
Q. You told His Honor about a session of briefings in the 15th RDBU2 and Andrew. Did you run a briefing with outside content [?]
A. Yes, Interstate tactical unit.
Q. Monis’s antecedents. Dr Bentley said a murder and sexual assaults. Kim Ora?
A. No, at TOU [tactical operations unit] office is when I first learned of Kim.
Q. When did you first discuss it with others? Before Matt and DB.
A. After the 1.13am call with Dr Bentley. Dr Bentley and myself and Matt we discussed psychology issues of the hostage taking.
Q. Narcissistic personality type, was that discussed?
A. Grandiosity, lack of empathy, his sense of achievement. Need …DB. In 2014, I was the IC. I commissioned [?] Forensics to do a report on the DB
Q. What did you instruct Matt to do in the room adjacent to the cell with participants from the Day Team?
A. [There is a non-publication order in effect regarding this answer, mentioned on the website of lindtinquest.justice.nsw.gov.au]
Q. How did you reconcile at the time the calmness and the Selina messages?
A. These were certainly in contrast to each other. DB.
Q. How did you put them together?
A. That for Selina it was self-preservation, trying to prod the negotiations.
Q. The 15-minute Ultimatum. By 2am a half-hour had passed.
How did you interpret that?
A. There was some satisfaction for Monis that things were being done.
Q. Did you have an intention of needing to do in respect to DB.
A. To get the lights turned off. Yes, it will be done, but it will take time. The Commander agrees.
Q. Did you extract any good will from Monis about the potential of a DB?
A. That he has treated them well. We can use this.
Q. Did you think of a Surrender Plan?
Q. So everyone indicated? Monis understands what is going on? At 2.03am everything finally changed?
A. Yes, it did.
Q. What did you do after hearing there had been a shot and an escape of a hostage?
A. Told W To debrief the hostage. DB. I went in touch of the calls to see if he had made contact. It was a simple DB, that we had nothing to give him.
Q. A series of msms coming to us?
Q. Little by little to clarify the DB?
A. Yes they were coming from MICB. At 2.08am a loud smashing noise like furniture and glass. There was a 5-minute delay on the listening device.
Q. Only at 2.10 a shot fired into the roof – you got that DB?
Q. Message deleted by Rob led to Mick explain what Rob had, and into which you were copied?
A. The 20U radio message from Rob, with me copied in. The same if it was TOU radio.
Q. When the ent? of 2.13am accord with?
A. Yes. There was an exit onto Martin Place and a second exit at the corner of Martin Place and Philip St.
Q. Where did you get that information from?
A. The meeting with Andrew and Interstate tactical briefing — e.g., the entrances and exits.
Q. Did you get information about DB?
A. Not specifically, I was aware maybe another entrance existed. I was aware of that one by, on TV, before I was called in.
Note: The gallery was then closed off so the Court could have a private session with counsel.
— Mary Maxwell is a newbie at taking notes in court. She apologizes for the 24 DB’s, and hopes an official transcript will be available soon. Perhaps you can get the downlow from Your ABC?
Photo credit: resources3.newscorps.com.au